Tsotne Tsardsidse has been a man on a mission since, well…
Since he was a boy.
The Modesto Christian senior forward left his hometown of Tbilisi, a capital city in the Eastern European country of Georgia, when he was a child to pursue basketball dreams abroad.
His travels have taken him to Spain for nearly a year before bringing him to Salida, where he’s blossomed into a two-year starter for the Crusaders, one of Northern California’s elite programs.
On and off the floor, Tsardsidse is soft-spoken and stoic. He shows no emotion, not when the game is hanging in the balance or when the questions become personal.
“I’ve always been that way,” Tsardsidse said. “Just trying to stay calm and not get too excited or too stressed. It helps me focus more, not listening to other teams talking trash or stuff like that.”
The 18-year-old senior sat down with FrontRowPreps.com ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinal with Manteca to discuss life back home and in the United States, and his basketball journey.
FR: When was the last time you were home?
TT: This summer.
FR: Do you miss it?
TT: I miss home. I miss my family. I miss my friends, and … I miss the food.
FR: The food? Which dish do you miss the most?
TT: It’s called "khinkali." It’s like dumplings, but it’s different. It looks like dumplings. It’s tasty for me.
FR: Have you tried cooking it here?
TT: No, it’s hard.
FR: Basketball once took you to Spain. Why did you leave ... and for Salida, of all places?
TT: I lived in Spain for like seven or eight months. In Spain, they don’t pay attention to education. Here, you can get an education and play basketball at a high level.
FR: Have you ever regretted leaving home?
TT: No, not at all. If you want to reach the goal, you have to sacrifice something too.
FR: What is your goal?
TT: My goal is to be a professional basketball player. It doesn’t matter where. I guess it depends on how good I play.
FR: How has Modesto Christian prepared you to reach your goals?
TT: It has prepared me a lot for basketball, school and college. With all the AP classes and stuff, it’s like college level. The workouts, the exams — it’s just like college.
FR: You’ve been apart of teams that have won a section title and lost in the quarterfinal round. How does this year’s roster stack up?
TT: We need to get more disciplined, offensively and defensively. We need to focus every game and on every possession. Just one mistake can cost us a game.
FR: How about you personally? In what ways can you be better?
TT: I got to be more aggressive down low. I need to get tougher. Coach had told me this. There are game I’m tough and then some I’m not. I need to be more consistent.
FR: Where is your recruitment? We’ve heard whispers about Montana and UC Davis.
TT: I’ve got an offer from Montana. An offer from UC Davis. San Francisco is interested. Dartmouth is interested. Oh and Saint Mary’s.
FR: What is your interest?
TT: Probably one of the West Coast Conference teams. It’s more like European style.
FR: What’s the European style?
TT: It’s a lot of plays and ball screens. It’s a little bit slower. There are a lot of sets. Being here, I had to adjust to a fast game. I think I can do both — play fast or slow down and run the play.
Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.